02 May, 2012

There's a few Newfies...

Yes, i'm a day late, but i wanted to finish this review, which i owe, and post it this week.

Tom Finn

The latest of the Early Reviewer books i have received; this one, like the book of poetry, Blueshifting, reveals a shortcoming of the e-book reader (or, to be precise, the Kindle, since that is the model i use), which is that turning to the table of contents is useless because there is no way to get from it to the next story (or a different one if, as i did, you want to be reminded of some past character or event); clearly, a great need for an effective e-book reader (and perhaps the best already have this facility) is the ability to use hyperlinks, from the table of contents at least, perhaps an index, too, if books with indices are e-published.  Apart, though, from my dissatisfaction with the medium, which i shall try not to mention again in any e-book review ~ you may take it as read that it is less perfect than an actual book ~ i have to say that i enjoyed Westsiders.  

I love short stories; they are probably my favourite form of fiction, though not one that i read an awful lot of, partly because they are not as popular in general as they used to be ~ a cultural weakness ~ but when i do, and they are well written, very enjoyable.  And these were enjoyable.  

Finn is a Newfoundlander, writing of the province either before or just after the transition to that status from British colony (i am not sure of the exact setting of the stories); a time when poverty was pretty clearly a defining trait of the island ~ as indeed Britain herself and, one suspects, many of her colonies, at that early post-war period ~ though that poverty does not overly force itself into the stories; they are more interested in the characters, the interactions, the developments.  The plots themselves are fairly minor; that of the last story, for example, could be summarised without much loss as “A man stands in a window waiting for a ride to Church on Easter”.  There is, however, more to the story as Finn tells it than that simple summary; we also learn about the man's relationships, both currently with his neighbour and his children, and in the past, with his wife.  This clever revelation by Finn occurs all through the book, with most of the stories having far more to offer than the plot, and the pleasure (for me, anyway) multiplied by the complexities.

The only story i feel which does not work as well as it might is the one in which plot is, perhaps, the strongest element, as Finn uses two or three narrators to tell the story of a boy who ran away; the whole thing has a feeling, to me, of the experimental (vide the different narrators), the forced, and, as i say, the unsuccessful.  One story in a collection, though, is not a bad ratio.  All in all, i have to report that i was very pleased to read (another) Canadian book ~ and one i enjoyed more than the last two i did read.

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